Review- An Appeal to Reason: A cool look at Global Warming by Nigel Lawson (2009)

I shuddered to read this book. Were my prevailing views on climate change actually suspect?

Let us see. Mr Lawson, was born in 1932. That makes him 82 this year. He was also a former Energy Secretary in the British government. That is one point or some form of expertise if not experience. Would he still be beholden to corporate interests and thus aim to influence economic policy? The short answer is no. There is not much more to be had financially, not for him at least (unless he lives another 100 years).

I have completed the Introduction; Chapter 7; concluding Chapter 8; and the Afterword.

Based on what I had earlier seen against the Stern Review, he has raised some reasonable doubts. Further, he raises two other valid considerations. The predominant consensus or agreement from the scientific community does not imply they are the fount of all wisdom i.e. the minority does not make for fallibility. (It similarly depends on how this consensus is derived. Who were asked? How and what were asked?)

Upon achieving an objective scientific result, we would need to prioritise climate change policy on the to do list. This list as I assume includes:
– poverty & starvation
– disease (most recently Ebola spreading out of Africa)
– crime (drugs, human trafficking, global match fixing)
– education
– international security (including terrorism)
– domestic conflict (such as ethnic rioting)

One looks at the above list and possibly hopes for a magic pill that would make everything go away. That would hardly happen though.

What is the potential cost? Can we afford the dangers sounded off by the environmental ‘alarmists’ and lean more to the skeptics? For one day, we would be voting in governments who would represent us to take these decisions.

Reading References

University at Albany, New York. (1992). Scientists’ Agreement and Disagreement about Global Climate Change:Evidence from Surveys

NASA. GISS Surface Temperature Analysis (for graphs of temperature changes, some from 1880)

BBC. (2006). At-a-glance: The Stern Review (representative of UK government policies challenged by Lawson)


Government Policy and Fertility Rates

As Total Fertility Rate (TFR) fell below replacement rate from 1977, the government went on to reverse the antinatalist thrusts with pronatalists plans to encourage births. These ranged from Baby Bonuses to Paid Child Care Leave. Yet as of 2010, TFR remained low with a near constant downward trend from the late 1980s.

Some critics may suggest that local policies have not been as comprehensive or extensive as compared to Sweden or France. In France, even train fares are reduced for larger families. Anecdotally, married couples in Singapore have chosen to remain childless or to restrict childbirths as they feel they cannot provide sufficient care/attention.

Yet this is to ignore the social, cultural and economic forces working against the policies. People had been receiving more education and therefore delaying childbirth due to their careers. There is also now a trend to keep families small. The exact reasons for this is not completely clear though the desire to maintain living standards could be one factor.


Saw Swee-Hock. The Population of Singapore. 3rd Edition. Singapore, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. (2012).


Public Housing as a factor in Singapore’s social harmony

The following is written with the GCE Cambridge ‘O’ Level Social Studies (Syllabus 2204) in mind. Specifically, it aims to reply in some senses the question set in 2009. It is not strictly speaking a typical model essay.

The first challenge to define ‘social harmony.’ It is not defined in the officially recognised texts. (I also confirmed this with a contact from the public education service and plowing through the official textbook). But if we take the point from Nurhidayah Hassan’s EU Centre working paper, racial and religious harmony (multiculturalism) is a subset of social cohesion/harmony. Perhaps to take things further, it may therefore imply the dissolution of ethnic markers where one is not marked as an Eurasian or Indian but rather a Singaporean period. This was by then Presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bok in 2011.

Going back to Nurhidayah’s paper, there are several dimensions. Socially, the Ethnic Integration Policy begun in 1989 allowed for a greater mix of ethnic groups in housing estates. In a block for instance, there may be no more than 87% of Chinese. This creates the conditions for interaction especially in common recreation areas unlike single ethnic estates. However, this does not mean that people would definitely interact. Some may prefer staying at home. In the most negative cases, increased proximity results in conflicts over the smell of curry or even joss paper burning. (refer to Cook Curry Day)

Economically, a public HDB flat can be sold for ‘social mobility’. In this way, it alleviates societal inequality. For example, one could sell a larger flat and move to a smaller one while keeping part of the profits. The problem here is that it assumes equal opportunities and resources for buying a flat. This is especially true for those at the lower rung of the income ladder where sometimes they are simply priced out of the market. Others like unmarried singles have faced difficulty in getting their first flat. The problem is more acute if one is already subject to ethnic or gender discrimination.

Having assessed housing as useful (if not necessary) but probably insufficient, what are the alternatives? Upon discussion with some youths, they proposed education. Students being assigned to complete group projects or coming together on Racial Harmony day which engenders greater understanding towards each other. There are additional avenues like Co-curricular activities as well. This overcomes the inertia and lack of activity discussed above. Moreover, the young arguably being less set in their ways would be more open to integration.

Another arm to this is National Service. Similar to the above, people at age 16 or 18 are conscripted into group settings. They train, grumble and in many aspects grow together. Many a conversation have started or revolved around one’s full time service, be that under the Minstry of Defence or Home Affairs. The shared experiences created common bonds. Nonetheless, most females are not part of the bonding process since they are excluded.

In conclusion, housing is one of many factors that work towards social cohesion and harmony. It however is a largely passive one unlike more intensive approaches found in education and National Service. A combination of the various policies would continue to aid cohesion and harmony.

Further reading:

As of 2007, 82% of the population lived in HDB flats.